Monday, December 30, 2013

New Web Page!

I decided to make my life a little easier (I think) by signing up for a web hosting service . . . and domain  name. Because, why not?


More content will appear in due course (presumably).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Species Book Released

My first monograph, Are Species Real, has been published. I have physical copies. It all looks very smartly put together. (I detected no typos! — whew!) I'm very pleased.

I do wish it was cheaper, though. . . . seems to have the best price. Strangely, there are already some used copies — some going for more than retail. Can someone explain to me what's going on with that?

In any case, you can find more information about the book on my website.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Discovery Residential College

I was fortunate enough to be in on the ground floor of the new Discovery Residential College. Residential Colleges at Bucknell are essentially clusters of thematically-related foundation seminars (classes all first-years take in their first fall) where the students live on the same hall, get together every week for a shared "common hour", and participate in extra outside-of-class trips and programs. Our theme was ... scientific discovery, particularly from a historical perspective.
Here (above) are some of us at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh groping a T. rex femur (or was it a diplodocus?). More photos and doings will go up on our Google Plus page as the term marches forward. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Cover Options

One of the fun photographic challenges that I set myself while in the Galápagos was to see if I could come up with a good cover for my forthcoming book on species. I wanted something that would convey either the obviousness of (some) species divisions or the unity species often share. The unity theme seemed well illustrated by the piles of marine iguanas or clusters of frigate birds we saw. The difference theme could be illustrated by pretty much any shot where you have a contrast between organisms of different species.

Luckily, I wound up with a few shots that hit both of these themes. The two best options, in my view, turned out to be quite similar. Here are the mockups I slapped together (for other covers in the series, see here). You can click to expand:

For the original higher resolution shots, see here (left) and here (right) — also a fun one here. That's a great blue heron (I think) with the iguanas on the left and a Darwin finch (female medium ground finch, I think) on the right (kinda cool that both species on the right cover are endemic to the Galápagos).

Any preferences? I can go with a different color too, of course.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Laura and I recently got back from the trip of a lifetime: nearly three weeks in Ecuador, including a solid week in the magnificent Galápagos islands. Pretty much a photographer and biology-enthusiast's dream vacation. Photosets here.

We didn't make it to the southwest islands — so no waved albatrosses —, but getting to Genovesa more than made up for it. Lots of nesting and mating blue and red-footed boobies in addition to many frigate birds with chicks and juveniles still in nest — all of which were pretty much totally non-plussed by our presence on the island.

Friday, February 1, 2013


So I've fallen off the blogging wagon pretty thoroughly. But this is blog-worthy: I was informed by the Dean of Arts and Sciences that I will be recommend for tenure and promotion to associate professor. It feels good — for lots of reasons — but at the same time is a bit anti-climactic. The dean came by my office to give me the news, there was a little hallway jubilation with some collected colleagues, and then I made myself another cup of tea and finished up editing a chapter. (Of course, I also celebrated at the tavern that evening!)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cell Types as Natural Kinds

I'm happy to report that my paper on cell types (back from the Granada Conference on Natural Kinds) has now been published online by Biological Theory. 

Here's the journal's version of "Cell Types as Natural Kinds" (2013) Biological Theory 7(2)
Abstract: Talk of different types of cells is commonplace in the biological sciences. We know a great deal, for example, about human muscle cells by studying the same type of cells in mice. Information about cell type is apparently largely projectible across species boundaries. But what defines cell type? Do cells come pre-packaged into different natural kinds? Philosophical attention to these questions has been extremely limited (see e.g., Wilson 1999, 2005; Wilson et al. 2007). On the face of it, the problems we face in individuating cellular kinds resemble those biologists and philosophers of biology encountered in thinking about species: there are apparently many different (and interconnected) bases on which we might legitimately classify cells. We could, for example, focus on their developmental history (a sort of analogue to a species’ evolutionary history); or we might divide on the basis of certain structural features, functional role, location within larger systems, and so on. In this paper, I sketch an approach to cellular kinds inspired by Boyd’s Homeostatic Property Cluster Theory, applying some lessons from this application back to general questions about the nature of natural kinds.
If you don't have a subscription, here's a link to the penultimate version. Just email me if you'd like a PDF of the published version.